dinsdag 8 maart 2016

Happy International Women's Day!


Happy International Women's Day!! I've decided to change the language of my blog to English, so that everyone can easily read and understand my blog.

I have been through a lot of changes these last couple of months. I came back from Paris on the 27th of January. Since then I got my room in Amsterdam back, I started with my voluntary work, I adjusted to life in the Netherlands, I fell in love, I did some modelling, I thought a lot about my future and life choices, I fell ill, I started preparing to apply for a Master in Clinical Forensic Psychology and I went on winter holidays in Austria.

It's hard to decide where to start my story. People have been asking me what Paris was like and what it's like to be back in the Netherlands. This is a very hard question to answer, in truth. Paris was a beautiful distraction and has taught me a lot of lessons. Some of these lessons I only realised I learned them after I got back. When I came to Paris I was very sad. I think I would have stayed sad for a long time if I would have stayed in the Netherlands. This is because I felt lost after I lost my boyfriend of 2,5 years. I lived only for our relationship. I didn't think a lot about my dreams and what I wanted to do in my life. I didn't realize what I was capable of on my own. I didn't see the person I really could become on my own. I didn't know my own worth. I didn't know who I was without my boyfriend. But in Paris, there was no time to be sad or mourn. I had to take care of a lot of things and I had to do this all in French. I had to make friends and socialize a lot, or else I would become lonely in a big, big city, far away from family and friends. This was a very stressful period, but I also got to know a lot of interesting people who, like me, were alone in a strange city, getting to know France and Paris. These people were a lot like me. They were adventurous, ambitious, curious, intelligent, francophiles, wine-lovers, cinema-lovers, art-lovers, museum-lovers, fashion-lovers, dreamers and very, very happy to go abroad and explore a new city and build a new life. I finally found a girl I could discuss art, movies, French cinema and art-house with and who I could go out with and who loves singing and acting like me. Sadly she lives in the US and that's far away. I found a girl who likes to go to museums, go out, go to cinema's and who is very bright and loves to drink Martini's, like me. I found friends who loved Paris, beauty, fashion, art, books, cinema, wine, good food, dancing and travelling, just like me. I have less friends in the Netherlands who love the same things I love. I guess it's because the reason people choose Paris as the city in which they want to study is because they like the image of Paris as a city of beauty, culture, fashion, art, partying, wine and good restaurants. They are romantics, dreamers and philosophers, like me. There was so much positive energy around me and such lovely people that we were all high on this Erasmus adventure of ours, young and bright in a lively cosmopolitan city. We were learning something new every day. There's nothing like being on a great adventure together with other young people. Erasmus is like a happy holiday that never ends. And all this time you could only think every day: I live in Paris, I live in Paris!! I can 't believe this! I am so lucky!!

The feeling of not believing I actually lived in Paris disappeared slowly, but surely, after two months I guess. Paris began to feel like Amsterdam, in the sense that the idea of me living in Paris became as normal as everyday life was. I now was building a new life in Paris. A life in which I had new friends and I spoke English to them, but was improving my French and wanted to improve my German. A life in which the fact that twenty men would talk to me on the street on an everyday basis was nothing unusual. I actually thank Paris for teaching me that there's nothing scarier for a misogynic man than a woman that isn't afraid of him. A woman who knows she has every right to walk down the street and ignore the men who talk to her. A woman who knows she has every right to dress the way she likes. A woman who knows she doesn't have to be polite or act friendly to a man who sexualizes her and bothers her. When I now walk the streets in Amsterdam and pass by a man, I sometimes feel afraid. But then I realize men in the Netherlands hardly ever bother women passing by on the streets. I also realize I have nothing to be afraid of. I have faced far worse in my neighborhood in Paris and I learned how to deal with it. As we say in the Netherlands: Barking dogs don't bite. And the more the men on the streets of Paris tried to make me feel like a weak woman, inferior to men, the more I felt like their equal, or even superior to men who bother women, the more I felt strong. Things will only change when you open your mouth and stop being afraid. This is one of the many life lessons Paris taught me.

The greatest fear I had about living on my own in Paris, was to succumb to fear, loneliness and homesickness. This didn't happen. True, I was at times very lonely. I felt very homesick the first month. The times when I was sick were the worst. Usually, somebody would take care of me when I was sick. My parents or my boyfriend. Now, there was nobody to take care of me. I still would have to go to the pharmacy and to the supermarket, unless I wanted to starve. I would have to walk with my sick body on the dirty, busy streets of Chateau Rouge, facing the men hitting on me, to the supermarket to get my groceries, and I would have to walk back with my sick body and heavy groceries to my apartment. There would be nobody there to help me. This sounds dramatic, but that's what was going through my mind at the time. Lying in the bed all day watching movies on your own, eating on your own and seeing nobody but the men on the streets for a week would always make me feel very lonely. Every time after a flu I would have to get right back to socializing every day with friends, to make sure I kept my friends. This was stressful. Thankfully, after three months I finally started to feel like I had some real friends I could always hang out with.

Then the Paris attacks happened. They made me feel a lot closer to my friends, my Dutch friends and Parisian friends. They showed me who really cared about me. They made me feel more 'one' with Parisians. They made me feel Parisian. Sadly, they made me feel a lot more anxious and nervous in my everyday life in Paris. Everything changed after the Paris attacks. I would have to show the content of my bag to every store and supermarket and to the university and library, before I could get in. There were lots of soldiers in the streets. I saw them every day. Not only Paris changed, but also my body changed because of the stress. I started suffering from stomach ache, heartburn, chronic hyperventilation and panic attacks whenever I was in a famous museum, in a touristic area or whenever I heard sirens. I could not succesfully get rid of the anxiety, Three weeks after the attacks we Parisians all started to trust Paris once again, but the anxiousness didn't really disappear. Since I got back in the Netherlands I realized that there's no way to explain to people who haven't experienced it what it's like to feel like your life and your city is in real danger. To experience the horror and shock. Dutch people, in general, feel very secure and safe. I finally felt safe in Paris, but my safe bubble exploded on the 13th of November. Far away from family and alone in a dangerous city under attack is a very threatening situation and emotionally very hard. I'm still writing about these events, because they made a life-long impression on me and they left a mark. Imagine being at the Red Wedding of Game of Thrones and seeing people getting stabbed to death but not being touched yourself, because you're hiding. Imagine seeing or hearing the horror, but being powerless and afraid of your own life. You realize you're only still alive because you're lucky. This was Paris at the night of the 13th of November 2015. I feel I was just lucky to not have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In January, I got a very painful bladder infection, not caused by any bacteria. I was in agony for 3 weeks, until I decided to go to the Netherlands to see my own doctor. I made one last visit to Paris to get my stuff and then I left my apartment, Paris and my life in Paris behind.

It feels kind of non-sensical.. To build a new life in a new country in a new city and make new friends, adapt to a different culture and language and then to leave it all behind and never return to it. I had a lot of plans for when I returned to the Netherlands, but my life in Paris still feels unfinished. I would love to return to Paris to do an internship or to work there. I would love to get a Master's degree in Paris, but I cannot find a good master for me in Paris. What's great about being back in the Netherlands, is being able to find everything you need in the stores, to pay less for your groceries, to understand the medical system, to be able to easily understand people on the phone, to not have to deal with bureaucracy and French laziness, to be able to get Dutch cheese everywhere and really, to not be bothered by men, to not be bothered by anyone in the streets really, to be able to and to be able to communicate in your mother tongue with everyone you know. The men here are also better looking and easier to communicate with (sorry, French men), haha. I'm now amazed I was able to file a report to the police and to see a psychologist at the university, completely in French. I'm amazed I had phone conversations in French. I never want to lose this skill. The language is beautiful, but complicated.

Back in the Netherlands now, many things have happened. I got used to Dutch life very quickly again, but I have a more open and internationally oriented mind than before. France feels familiar, in the way Portugal feels like a very familiar country, my father's country. As I said, I fell back in love and I did many other things as well. Four weeks ago I got a nasty flu. I took it with me to Gerlos, Austria, where I was going on skiing holidays. For days, I didn't get out of bed. I had fever for five days. I skied for only three days, but I was proud I skied on some black ski slopes and got into the technique pretty fast (after sickness and 5 years of not skiing). Back home, I got bronchitis and the flu kept coming back. Every week I got fever and felt weak for a few days. I was forced to cancel all my appointments and I try to rest as much as possible. I'm going to a specialist to find out what's wrong and I hope everything will turn out alright. It's very frustrating to not be able to do all the things I wanted to do as soon as I got back. To not be able to do sports, have dinner with friends, go out with friends and to work and be productive. People didn't understand that I was still sick and a photographer I was scheduled to do a photoshoot with simply deleted me as a Facebook friend, when I told him I was still sick and not able to do the shoot. People see a young person and can't understand that that person isn't feeling well. I'm trying the best I can to get better. I meditate and do breathing exercises, drink a lot of water, eat healthy and rest a lot. Tomorrow the urologist is going to look into my bladder, so that should be a lot of fun.

I want to do a Master in Clinical Forensic Psychology, and afterwards in International Law. I need experience with ex-detainees to have a better chance of being selected to do the program. This is why I have been applying for voluntary work and have been doing a training for voluntary work with ex- sex offenders. I will also be doing voluntary work to help ex-detainees out with their integration in society. This work is more like social work and has great appeal to me. I want to help people, that has always been my main drive in life. I want to help people psychologically and emotionally, but also socially. I want to bring people together and make them happy. If I can contribute to someone's happiness, I feel like I made a difference. That's what I want in life, to be a positive influence in other people's lives.

This summer I would love to travel. I have some dreams and I'm still trying to figure out what I'm actually going to do. For instance, I would love to just walk from the Netherlands to Portugal, on my own with only a backpack. Walk all day and then sleep in a hostel, just enjoy being alone and seeing Europe and being outside. Another dream is to travel through the United States on my own, seeing my friend in Boston and then just travelling on my own, sometimes teaming up with someone. An Indian friend from Paris asked me to come with her to India this summer and that's an idea I love to think about. India has been one of my favorite countries and I would love to visit it. I was always very interested in India and watched a lot of Bollywood movies. I really want to learn Hindi. Then again, my close friend from Alkmaar is travelling to Australia on Friday and will be gone for a year. I would love to visit her in Australia this summer or visit her when she goes to Asia afterwards. So many ideas and I can't decide what to do with my money. I know I have to work to save more money, but I'm still not feeling well enough.

There is one last thing I want to point out, as it's International Women's Day today. I have always been a feminist and critical of society. These last months however I have been noticing things I didn't notice before. I have been paying more attention to double standards and sexism in society. When Chris Rock at the Oscars pointed out that there's really no reason to have female and male categories in acting, I realized I never even thought about that before. He's right, it's actually nonsense. We are all human beings. Recently I have also been thinking about how strange it is that I sometimes am required at work to put on make up, to look presentable and neat. For me, being presentable and neat means having washed my hair, wearing fresh, neat clothes, having clean nails and smelling nice. For me, it doesn't necessarily mean: wearing make up. If women are required to put on a little make up, shouldn't men also be required to put on some make up? Are women ugly without make up? Uglier than men? I think women don't have to wear make up to look presentable. I'm planning on wearing no make up for some weeks, even at work, to see how it feels. I'm a young woman and I shouldn't need make up to look okay. Another thing that bothers me is when people talk about feminism, it's always about women. We should also be talking about our men and educating men. Men are also suffering from double standards and gender stereotypes. A man is perceived as "weak" when he cries. Men almost never cry or show their emotions in public or even in private. It's so extreme that when I actually witness a man crying, it's a very rare thing and it's very moving, because it means he's really putting himself out there and is being vulnerable. It shouldn't be such a shocking thing to see a man cry. A man also shouldn't feel pressure to drink as much as his friends drink or to sleep with women, because his friends think that to have sex with many people is a big achievement in life. Men should be able to make their own choices and should be educated about women, to learn women are not sexual objects. Men and women are different from each other but we also share a lot of similarities with each other. Women have "masculine" qualities and men have "feminine" qualities and there's nothing wrong with this. I myself desire such "feminine" qualities in men, as well as "masculine" qualities. I like men who show their sensitive side, who like wine, who like fashion and like to go shopping with me. This doesn't make them gay. As Emma Watson said, feminism is about equality.

This has been a long blog entry but I enjoyed writing it and telling you what has been up with me the last couple of months. I have so many plans and so many things I want to do. I can't wait to do it all when I'm feeling better. Lastly, I wanted to share with you my New Year's resolutions, also as a reminder to myself:

- to stand up for myself more
- to focus more on myself and my ambitions in life
- to study harder
- to do more about sports
- to know my own worth
- to develop my passions
- to focus on my career
- to travel
- to eat healthier
- to evade or reduce stress
- to meditate more
- to write more
- to create my own website
- to work more
- to stop procrastinating
- to work on my self-confidence
- to believe in myself more
- to be able to make difficult decisions
- to stop being afraid of others
- to be less shy
- to stop being intimidated by other people
- to get used to living on my own (as I did in Paris)


- C.

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